Leaving a mark on Everest

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By SCOTT PESZNECKER

For the second time in his 61 years, Bob Hoffman reached the top of the world.

It was 7:30 a.m. May 26, at 29,028 feet, on the part of Mount Everest known as "The Death Zone."

Hoffman, roughly 25,000 feet higher than his Camp Connell cabin, looked over the craggy, snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas through his goggles and oxygen mask.

Winds exceeding 50 mph raked the summit and threatened to frostbite any exposed flesh. Combined with the effects of high altitude dementia, illness, exhaustion and more any inclement weather can turn deadly on Everest.

With that in mind, Hoffman was ready to leave the summit after five minutes. All but one member of his expedition had already started down, and the remaining person longtime friend and experienced Tibetan climber Pemba Sherpa told Hoffman ice was caked over his oxygen mask. Left unchecked, the ice can be suffocating.

Everest climbers know to use their gloved hands to break the ice when that happens.

What Hoffman didn't know, as Pemba followed the others in their weary descent for Camp IV, was that the fragile, plastic tube that fed oxygen to his mask was lodged in the ice.

Even after he snapped the tube like a twig, he still didn't know it.

A poster of Kathmandu graces a wall inside the Camp Connell General Store, near a cluster of wooden tables where locals sit and shoot the breeze.

The few people there on a mid-September day greeted Hoffman warmly as he entered the store.

Although he spends most of the week at his Belmont home, Hoffman routinely heads to the foothills on weekends. Hoffman, retired from United Airlines, has been building his cabin in Camp Connell since 1998.

And to think, he almost didn't live to finish it.

"I promised my family I wouldn't go back to Everest again," Hoffman said.

The climber has conquered mountain ranges across the globe, including the Andes, Pamirs, Alps, Cascades, Caucasus, Rockies and the Himalayas.

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The Union Democrat
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